CLCE associate director helps bring students closer to communities in need

Associate Director for the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement Kimberly Fabbri-Greener aided in connecting students to Tampa’s nonprofits. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

It might not be a stereotypical origin story, but Associate Director for the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement (CLCE) Kimberly Fabbri-Greener said her story coming to USF felt like one worthy of the big screen.

“It’s like a Marvel movie origin story,” she said.

Fabbri-Greener was born into the volunteering circuit. With a Lions Club member father, a former firefighter for a grandfather and a mother heavily involved with the Parent Teacher Association, volunteering was more than just an extracurricular – it was a way of life.

“Volunteering was a way for me to make friends,” she said. “But it was also a precedent set for me by my family. Everyone around me was always doing volunteer work, and they really set an example for me.”

While continuing to volunteer throughout high school and during her undergraduate career at King’s College, Fabbri-Greener earned a degree in both History and Political Science. Upon entering graduate school, she felt unsure about what career path to take. She chose to take a year of service with the AmeriCorps VISTA, working alongside King’s College education faculty members in tutoring English as a second language to elementary students.

“I saw faculty members working in the community, and I also saw how the college was benefiting the community through student service,” Fabbri-Greener said. “That’s what got me interested in continuing this path and connecting college students to community service opportunities.”

While pursuing a Master’s in History from Lehigh University, Fabbri-Greener continued to work at King’s College. But in the middle of her studies, she was offered a full-time position working with King’s Alternative Break program while also assisting federal work study students and connecting community partners with volunteers. Finding USF, she said, was nothing short of luck.

“I was working at a K-12 institution, and I was missing working with college students,” Fabbri-Greener said.

“My husband and I wanted to be closer to family, so I started looking in Florida. I found USF’s Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement, and I just loved the message. I loved the staff and the work that they were doing. So I hoped I was as good of a fit for them as it was for me, and it turns out it was.”

Arriving at USF in March 2020, Fabbri-Greener faced a notoriously difficult period where she had to make the transition from meeting in person to only using a digital space. But when most would put community service on hold, Fabbri-Greener pushed ahead, reaching out to local nonprofits to learn about them and what they needed from USF.

“It was a lot of ‘How are you doing? Are you ready to accept volunteers right now? You’re not ready? That’s fine. I’ll circle back in six months,’” she said.

“It was a great opportunity because I had to really research about partners in the area. But it was also challenging because some partners can’t provide virtual resources because they work in a face to face environment or they’re working with vulnerable clients. So for me, it was a lot of just trying to establish a relationship.”

Even during the pandemic, Fabbri-Greener said she was surprised at the amount of people who expressed interest in helping out during such a difficult time. Now, in a time closer to normalcy, she said that concern for health and safety still sits at the forefront of her mind.

“There was still some hesitancy in fall 2021, still a lot of requests for virtual volunteering,” she said. “This year there’s been a lot more volunteers, and with that more folks comfortable with volunteering in person. But even now, it’s still certainly a concern for us all.”

With more students back on campus, Fabbri-Greener’s list of duties has expanded. She’s the head coordinator of Stampede of Service, which teaches students how to connect with their community and find something they are passionate about. From there they are connected to a local nonprofit, followed by a reflection on what they learned and how or if they want to continue serving in the organization.

She also works alongside USF’s Alternative Break program, which conducts eight weeks of training before being sent for a community service project over spring break.

Despite her busy schedule, Director for CLCE Michael Severy knows that Fabbri-Greener is always looking for dogs on campus to pet.

“She’s a big fan of animals,” he said. “She regularly serves at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay and Shy Wolf Sanctuary. She is very personable and our student staff gravitates towards her as a sounding board for their learning and development. She is very intelligent – always thinking, always activating, always learning, always improving.”

Though she may have a long career in the volunteering field, Fabbri-Greener said she is always impressed when she sees the ways that college students step up when they go out to serve their community.

“So many of the clients are homeless, or experiencing both food insecurity and housing insecurity. When our students will sit with them and have engaging conversations, you would see how much the interaction between the students was meaningful to the person at the table. And so seeing our students show people who are not really shown the dignity that they deserve.”

“I’m always impressed when I get to see students in action during service and so that’s something that’s really meaningful to me.”